California’s Drought is Causing Bigger Problems Than Brown Lawns. It’s Decimating Wildlife.

They can’t find water. They can’t find food. They’re abandoning their young because they can’t care for them. Wildlife is reeling over the impact of the drought in the western U.S., now in its fourth year, and there’s no relief in sight. That’s bad for so many reasons.

Animals and their ecosystems are in trouble. Those already on the edge of extinction have it worst of all. They face a more rapid demise because of habitat loss and lack of food and water. A prime example is the giant kangaroo rat. It lives only in certain areas of California. That’s never been a bigger problem than right now.

The giant kangaroo rat is a critical food source for many other animals higher in the food chain, like birds, endangered San Joaquin kit foxes and coyotes. Yet this cute little endangered rodent has lost a staggering 95 percent of its population since 2010. It is dying in droves, unable to find enough grass now that thousands of acres of former grassland areas have nothing to offer.

The endangered Giant Kangaroo Rat.  Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife

The endangered Giant Kangaroo Rat. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Likewise, endangered chinook salmon find themselves unable to return to spawning areas. Due to low water levels, some become trapped in river sections unsuited to spawning. In 2014, 95 percent of salmon eggs and young fish perished. They won’t be here to breed and spawn in seasons to come.

Where does that leave future generations of salmon? Nonexistent, in a word.

Even for animals that we see in abundance, life has become impossibly hard in the drought-stricken western U.S. The dire need for sustenance is now driving those animals closer and closer to where humans live.

“You think about it. In our urban environments, we have artificial water. We’re not relying on creeks,” Nevada Department of Wildlife’s David Catalano told the Washington Post. “We have sprinkling systems. We water bushes with fruit and water gardens. That’s just a magnet for everything.”

Catalano says animals are gravitating toward populated areas out of desperate need. Human neighborhoods are now very attractive to wildlife struggling to survive.

“At your house, everything is green and growing and flowering, and they’re being drawn to it,” Catalano said. Deer come looking to forage on the greenery, while the predators that hunt them — mountain lions and coyotes in particular — follow them. When they bump up against the local populace, it’s a recipe for disaster.

Poor conditions now force animals to work harder to keep their young alive. In many cases, they can’t do it. When the mother can barely support her own life, she cannot sustain her young ones too. She must leave her babies to die, and live on to have another litter when times are better.


Mountain lions are following their prey into greener suburban areas, posing a danger to themselves and humans. Photo credit: Thinkstock

“We are noticing a lot of animals being abandoned by their mothers,” Julia Di Sieno, director of Animal Rescue Team, Inc. in Solvang, Ca. told NNCNow. “It could very well be related to the drought because the mother has to survive and probably cannot because she doesn’t have enough to sustain her brood.”

While you probably feel terrible for the plight of these animals, don’t put out food or water. That just draws them to places they should not be, which is dangerous for both the animals and for us. Wildlife experts are doing what they can to help.

For those you may know out west who are irritated about browning lawns or the inability to wash cars in the driveway, remind them there are bigger issues at play. Many of our fellow creatures and fighting for their lives at this very moment.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

Julia Cabrera-Woscek

It is distressing to know.

Vicky P.
Vicky P3 years ago

:( oh no

Janis K.
Janis K4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Susan T.
Susan T4 years ago

is it not crazy that hollywood liberals don't abide by this standard?

circle of life...right...floods in the midwest, tornados....
holy crap on a cracker people, get a grip. Life sucks everywhere right now deal with it.

mari s.
Mari S4 years ago

Help your animals, help your wildlife ... do whatever it takes so they have what they need to stay alive -- do not allow their slow suffering death -- PLEASE, help them!

Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell4 years ago


Natasha Salgado
Past Member 4 years ago

Poor animals. Call Nestle make the bastards repay back the water they've been stealing. Someone has gotta get water somehow 4 the poor animals.